There’s a crazy urban myth regarding Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It’s been around coincidentally as long as the internet, and states that the album works as a sort of alternative soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz. The theory goes, that if you start playing the album at the same time you start playing The Wizard of Oz (with the sound muted), the album will synchronise with the film’s visuals in interesting ways. By that, I mean that the music corresponds to what’s happening on screen, and the songs change when scenes do. Some people say that it goes beyond mere coincidence, and that the album must have been composed specifically for this purpose.
The idea of this has always intrigued me. I’m embarrassed to say that soon after I heard about it, I bought a copy of DSotM and The Wizard of Oz and tried it out for myself. I am possibly the only person in the world who was not high when I did this. I noticed a fair few moments of synchronisation and was a firm believer that, while this was probably not a deliberate thing, it was certainly some kind of weird, cosmic coincidence.
Now I’m older and wiser, I’ve tried this synch again (still not high), to see if my opinion had changed. Someone had helpfully put the two together and uploaded it to Vimeo (YouTube for grown ups). The video is after the jump, and below that is a list of all times when I think that things do, and do not seem to synch…
Track 1 – Speak To Me
This ominous track doesn’t really have much in relation to what we’re seeing on screen (the credits), apart from the fact that they’re both introductory pieces.
0.00 The most common theory is that you start the album playing when you hear the third roar of the MGM lion. I’m not sure if the guy who made the video did that, though.
1.10 It would make sense for the climax of this song to come at the end of the credits, but it doesn’t. It’s off to a bad start.
Track 2 – Breathe
I don’t see much in the way of synchronisation during this song, but I think the overall tone of the song fits in with what’s on screen.
2.00 We’re quite a way into this song before the film proper begins, so no synch there.
2.40 The vocals don’t come in at a significant time, either.
3.15 The lyrics talk about rabbits digging holes, and that always made me think of Alice in Wonderland rather than The Wizard of Oz. Some people have suggested there is a synch with that film, too!
4.00 The lyrics, “Balanced on the biggest wave / You race towards an early grave” are sung as Dorothy is balanced on a fence and falls. It’s a nice little synch, I suppose.
Track 3 – On the Run
If this were a deliberate synchronisation, this would be an odd choice to start a new song. Dorothy falling off a fence is hardly a crucial story beat. Also, this tune is all about movement, but there isn’t much movement going on in the film.
4.35 The airport announcements are heard as Aunty Em appears and starts talking, but it’s not completely in synch.
5.00 Footstep noises are heard, somewhat in time with the farmhands walking away.
5.45 Dorothy starts to sing, but this track doesn’t change. This weird, creepy Pink Floyd tune doesn’t relate to “Over the Rainbow” at all.
7.30 We hear thunder and a second later, Dorothy looks up to the clouds. Ooh, nice!
Track 4 – Time
This is quite an epic, expansive song, but what’s seen on screen is quite small scale and personal, so it doesn’t seem to fit, tonally. There are some nice sychs along the way, though.
8.00 This track starts as the scene changes and Miss Gulch appears on screen. The sound of alarm clocks seems to warn us about her. This is a really good synch.
8.40 Sinister sounding chords begin as the scene changes to the interior of the house. The ominous sounding music fits quite well, as this is the scene in which Miss Gulch argues that Toto the dog should be taken away. That witch!
10.15 The vocal section of the song begins, but it doesn’t correspond to anything on screen.
11.00 I guess the lyrics are relevant; they talk of starting to run, as Dorothy runs away from home.
11.20 The guitar solo section of the song starts roughly as she meets the fortune teller, Professor Marvel.
13.40 The music changes as Marvel consults his crystal ball. The reprise of the song “Breathe”, with the lyrics, “Home, home again”, begins as he tries convince Dorothy to go back home.
Track 5 – The Great Gig in the Sky
This track synchs by far the best, in my opinion.
14.50 The song changes as the scene does. As she leave Marvel’s caravan, the wind gets up, and we hear the opening bars of this song.
15.05 The slide guitar starts roughly as we see the farm again.
15.30 The disembodied voice talks about dying, just as the people are under threat of death from the twister.
16.00 The soaring vocal screams really fit in well, here.
17.10 As Dorothy is hit on this head and falls down, the music slows and changes to something more dreamlike. It fits really well!
18.20 “I never said I was frightened of dying”, is heard, just as Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch appears.
19.30 Dorothy opens to door to find she is in Oz, exactly as this song ends. Then we hear the “ka-ching” sound that signals the start of the next song, “Money”.
It always struck me as a massive coincidence that the first side of the album was exactly the same length as the sepia-toned, Kansas-based, part of the movie. The fact that this is a song about death, but it came halfway through a concept album about life, always bothered me too.
My analysis of the second half of the album will follow shortly…